Friday, November 23, 2018

Bashkortostan Set to Define Its Borders, a Step Fraught with Greater Risks than the Ingush-Chechen Conflict

Paul Goble

            Staunton, November 23 – The government of the Republic of Bashkortostan plans to delimit and demarcate its borders with four adjoining regions over the next two years – with Orenburg and Sverdlovsk oblasts and the Udmurt Republic next year and Chelyabinsk Oblast and Tatarstan in 2020, Moscow’s Kommersant reports (

            And even though the paper says that Ufa was able to reach an agreement on the borders with Perm Kray this year without difficulties, there is good reason to believe that one or more of the borders yet to be established may be a problem because the frontiers between them are ethnically mixed and so where the borders are drawn will matter to both sides.

            One indication of dangers ahead is provided by recent discussions about the border between Bashkortostan and Tatarstan, a line that was drawn by Stalin in his first great act of ethnic engineering and remains controversial – some call it “the Berlin wall of the Middle Volga” – because the population is ethnically mixed on both sides  ( and

            If a serious conflict does break out along any of Bashkortostan’s borders – and it would seem extremely unlikely that Ufa can manage to reach agreement without taking steps that will spark controversy – it will dramatically overshadow what has been taking place in Ingushetia and Chechnya this fall.

            Not only is Bashkortostan far larger – Ingushetia is the smallest federal subject except for the three federal cities – and economically more important, but like Tatarstan, it sits astride all of the east-west transportation and communications links between European Russia and Siberia. If there is a crisis, it could easily disrupt those ties.

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